Book Review: God's Big Picture
This is Josh C's review of God's Big Picture written by Vaughn Roberts (InterVarsity Press, 2002, 160 pages). This book is available online or in the bookstore.
God’s Word is rich and complex, and it is not immediately obvious what the overall theme and focus of it is, even to many Christians. God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts helps us in this. It is an excellent, short book that answers the question, “How can we begin to read and understand the Bible as a whole?” Roberts is the rector of St. Ebbe’s Church in Oxford, United Kingdom, and a founding member of the 9:38 ministry.
The book, written for all Christians, from the new convert to the mature believer, shows how the different parts of the Bible fit together coherently under the theme of the kingdom of God. (Roberts acknowledges that there are other valid themes that could serve this purpose.) He shows the reader that the Bible’s supreme subject and focus is Jesus Christ and the salvation God offers through him. Roberts deals with the Bible in eight chapters, each pertaining to a phase of God's kingdom. For example, Chapter Four is entitled, "The Partial Kingdom," and it addresses the period in Israel’s history from Abraham to Solomon, showing how the political kingdom of Israel foreshadows the kingdom announced by Christ, the ultimate king in the line of David. Chapter Eight, "The Perfected Kingdom," depicts the new heaven and the new earth, the consummated kingdom of God with everything as it should be. Roberts includes numerous charts and diagrams that helpfully illustrate various concepts. And, each chapter ends with a series of discussion questions regarding a relevant passage or passages of Scripture that highlight that phase of the kingdom of God.
Roberts' style is helpfully concise and clear. He carefully and faithfully supports his assertions with Scripture. The reader comes away with a much better understanding of the flow and trajectory of Scripture and with broad theological categories into which he can then place truths of Scripture. It is as if he has given the reader a map of a large city that includes only major roads and landmarks, as well as a depiction of traffic flows in the morning and evening. The map does not show every detail, but it does provide a clear picture of the overarching contours of the city into which the details one learns can fit over time.
The book is valuable in several ways. First, it provides Christians with an excellent understanding of the Bible as a whole, particularly as it shows the reader how all of Scripture points to Christ in one way or another. Second, and related, it shows the reader how to study Scripture looking for ways in which a given text prepares for, reflects, or results from Christ. Third, as the reader sees the many threads of truth woven throughout Scripture, he is struck by the majestic and masterful nature of God's Word and of the beauty of Christ. The result for the Christian is worship! Fourth, the book is an excellent evangelistic tool, as non-Christian readers get a clear understanding of God's Word and the gospel, which dispel cultural misrepresentations of the Bible, as well as poor or heretical teaching they may have heard in in the church or other sources in the Christian world. I can say that this book did all four of these things for me, and it is one of the most impactful books I have read in the last 15 years.
The one limitation I found with the book is that, because of its short length at just under 170 pages, it cannot discuss every topic in depth. However, Roberts writes with precision and care in a way that mitigates this limitation, and the benefit of a short, readable book for laypeople is worth the tradeoff. He draws heavily from Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom, which is a more detailed treatment of the topic of the book.
God's Big Picture is an excellent book that I wholeheartedly recommend for both the Christian and non-Christian who want to know more how the Bible fits together and is focused on Christ and the salvation he offers. It is well worth taking the time to read.